Eat tart cherries, run pain-free
As much as I don’t like taking over-the-counter pain medication, sometimes my aching muscles just cry out for relief. Luckily, I’ve recently come across some studies that suggest an alternative to advil and aleve – tart cherries! A study from the Oregon Health & Science University showed evidence that runners who consumed tart cherry juice twice a day for seven days experienced less post-race pain than those runners who consumed another type of fruit juice (i.e. apple or orange). This reduction in pain can most likely be attributed to the anthocyanins, the powerful antioxidants that make cherries red and act as anti-inflammatories.
The Oxygen Radical Absorbancy Capacity (ORAC) scale measures how many antioxidants a food contains. Cherries weigh in at an ORAC value of 2033, which is quite high and even beats out red grapes (ORAC value 1260). However, it’s important to choose tart cherries. This variety has far more antioxidants than the sweet variety (sorry, the maraschino cherries atop your ice cream sundae don’t count!). In addition to reducing soreness in the muscles and joints of athletes, tart cherries boast a bevy of other health benefits. Because of their anti-inflammatory properties, cherries have be shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and reduce belly fat. Both good things for runners looking to live long and run fast!
I will often pop a handful of dried tart cherries before a morning run (carbohydrates, sugar, AND antioxidants!), but I incorporate the fruit into other meals as well. Last week I made myself a salad packed with veggies, dried cherries, goat cheese, and walnuts (another nutritional powerhouse). Paired with some whole grain bread and an olive-oil based dressing this salad can make a great light supper. The next time a tough workout leaves your muscles aching, try bypassing the bottle of pain-killers and reach for some tart cherries instead.
Beet, Goat Cheese, & Tart Cherry Salad (serves 1)
- 3 cups of salad greens, washed and dried
- 1/2 cup sliced roasted beets
- 1 oz. soft goat cheese
- 1 oz. walnut halves
- 1/4 cup dried cherries
- 2 Tbs balsamic vinaigrette
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Gently toss first 5 ingredients in a large salad bowl until combined
- Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper